What brands come to your mind when you hear the term sharing economy? Maybe Uber, Etsy, TaskRabbit, Airbnb and dozen other companies which only half-a-decade ago were start-ups on a mission to challenge incumbents in well-established industries.
The sharing economy or on-demand economy entails that companies meet the demands of consumers by providing access to goods and services. Very often the buyers prefer to rent those goods and services rather than to own them and the most important currency to choose from one seller or service provider over the other one is trust, which is the result of digital footprint in the form of positive reviews and constant referrals. Excellent branding in the 21st century means that users share with excitement how the company wowed them.
Technology has levelled the playing field significantly and now consumers got more demanding about their experience of ordering food, transportation, accommodation, clothes, books and anything else we can imagine. Complex sign-ups are a matter of the past and the digital platforms for on-demand economy enable purchase on a tap of a single button, conveniently and 24/7 from any corner of the world.
Numbers for sharing economy in the US speak for themselves: over 22.4 million consumers per year are attracted by it and $57.6 billions are spent on it. According to National Technology Readiness Survey $35.5 billions are spent on online marketplaces with 16.3 million consumers every month, whereas transportation services amount to $5.6 billion per year thanks to 7.3 million monthly consumers, and food and grocery delivery creates the value of $4.6 billion annual spending with 5.5 million monthly consumers.
On-demand economy will continue to surge world-wide if we consider just one variable - the increase of the ''global middle class'' from 1.8 billion in 2009 to 3.2 billion by 2020 and 4.9 billion by 2030, especially for the markets of Asia, Africa and BRICS countries. We definitely live in one of the most exciting times in human history so if you want to be at the frontier of sharing economy here are several actions you can take this week, as a consumer or business creator.
1) Get Access to Top Information about Sharing Economy
Successful brands proved that sharing economy is here to stay with us and it is not a passing fad. Apart from setting up your inbox and rss feeds with keywords such as ''sharing economy'' ''access economy'' and on ''demand economy'' you can start reading industry reports from major consultancies and books from authors in the field such as Rachel Botsman, the author of the bestseller What is Mine is Yours and
Alex Stephany who wrote highly acclaimed The Business of Sharing.
2) Think about Brand Equity from Clients' Perspective
If your start-up in the field of on-demand economy, should become Airbnb for x industry or niche, you should be aware that your marketing strategy for the items users will share would be different than for the items they would like to own. In other words, you will create the brand community differently in case your users change the brand of the vehicle or the clothes they use from day-to-day. When we rent or share an object we are not attached in the same way as we would be in case we owned the same brand. Marketers and business developers should therefore develop empathy for users because failing to see, hear and feel from clients' perspective leads to a sure fall into abyss.
3) Enhance Your Customer Service
In the age of sharing economy, you should facilitate the conversations among your users. Apart from social media marketing and 24/7 presence, the invite-only community of practice is another way to provide answers to your users with centralized knowledge base and Q&As, whereas their feedback keeps your business on the right track. For example, company Helprace created a software that groups 5 kinds of queries on their help desk. Thousands of Helprace clients enhanced customer experience with the business system for queries grouped under: user search, questions, ideas, concerns and problems, user praise.
It turns out to be true that a company cannot be too much out there for its clients, because in the digital age the threshold of excellence is constantly increasing and the examples of bad customer experience may be remembered for a long-time, but those businesses plummet into oblivion as unloved and bankrupt.
4) Make Your Staff Ambassadors of Sharing Economy
Depending on where you live, when you hear the world freelancer, you may think about at least one person in your surroundings. In years to come we should expect the exponential freelancer growth since at the moment there are 53 million freelancers in the US (34% percent of total workforce); 8.9 million in the EU (according to 2013 dana) and 1.4 million in the UK across various sectors.
Hiring contractors via freelancing platforms is also an example of on-demand economy and before you recruit motivated experts who bring their own talents and devices into challenging projects, read highly informative Small Office Home Office Workers Report that Cartridge People released several days ago.
5) Create Value Beyond Money Transactions with IT-Factor
To spread the word about your sharing economy venture you should focus on tech-savvy early adopters and they can be motivated by the alluring it-factor which your business has. Let's have a quick look at three different industries to show the universality of this principle: create value beyond money.
The development team at hosting company SiteGround have understood perfectly the term customer life-time value and they have decided to include 30-day money back period. Therefore, SiteGround was ranked as the best hosting service for three reasons: speed, security (free daily back-up), and 24/7 support.
One of the coolest home-swap websites Home Exchange enabled alike property owners to message each other and experience life like locals for free in more than 150 countries. The business has been growing since 1992 with over 65.000 properties listed, and the creators encourage new entrants to use their reputation as the currency: explaining why their property is one-of-a-kind and can attract crowd's attention.
Finally, the fantasy sports app Puntr based its business model on connecting sport fans and brands. The users watch the 30-second ad and the revenue pulled this way is then redistributed to users. As we can see, app creators decided to reward with money the loyalty of clients who pay in time.
On-demand economy will be with us many years to come. It has changed how we perceive availability of goods and services, so that luxuries that were unthinkable to the generations of our (grand)parents can even at some point start to be a commodity. The companies that recognize fast other unanswered demands would be able to address and connect potential consumers with the existing capacities, while very often those companies may not own such inventory themselves.